yes, last night’s Acentos was definitively off the hook but my body is doing the slow recovery and it still stuck on monday…

chinatown bus up to NYC… get off… still tired and now i am soaked… take a bus ride to the spaceship casita in lieu of returning to the bx and never waking up again (thanks, ray)… shit, shower and shave… catch a nap… head to PS 116 with rich and lovella… no parking… park illegally with nothing more than a “Hi! My name is…” visitors pass to give us props… badges, we dont need no stinking badges… meet the kids.. rich does a mini set, then does a workshop q&a with the kids…

(side note- if you are really nervous about a feature or a slam or some other poetry type event- go teach a workshop first especially to kids. it will get your mind off the ego and let you know this poetry thing is a lil bit bigger than we may think it is. definitely, bigger than us. just sayin’)

…kids, love rich… rich, loves kids… more poems… i am quite impressed as to how accessible rich’s work is… the kids are all into him… “5 minutes in Spanish Harlem” probably taught more about the hood than any social studies class… i go up… have a lil assignment for the youngins… start out doing “Capicu”… nail it again… from memory, no less… intro myself, tell em… poetry has been very, very good to me… not in the Spic voice, sillies… tell em that poetry can let em be who they want to be… poetry can make you immortal… poetry can let em know you were here, forever (copyright, willie p)…

run through the exercise… list your three favorite colors… describe one of the colors, what does it mean to you?… read, “What the Gypsy said to her children” by Judith Ortiz Cofer… they explode the poem… break it up… search for similies and metaphor… underline what they like, key phrases and such… review the poem… “the purple lament of our song”… the kids explain to me what they think that means… i get quite the lesson… lovella does a free write based on the assignment… reads it to the kids… they love lovella… three periods, over… bell rings… kids is free… we get asked to critique the drama class… cool… me and rich help out to more of the kids… the school tells us “you did good, dems the bad kids”.. how come they always tell me this after the fact… time to eat!

raina, lovella, rich and I hit spoonbread for some lunch… catfish… mac & cheese… cabbage… hot turkey… candied yams.. rice & peas… it’s all good

back to the bx… time to teach… good class with the enlace kids… need to put their poems together for an anthology…. one of the kids getting better and better

off to 13… miss the feature and the open mic… hence, no cheese sandwich for o.b…. back to score keeping… i am faster than a slide rule on viagra… RAC kicks it off… she heckles her own scores!…. then the real shit starts… rocky theme music- on!

jai starts it off… oppenhiemer poem… he shoulda started with the Pi poem… oh, well… 25.4… sheet, the judges are starting low… rog with song for trent lott… after nats, i dont know if he can perform it any better or any different… 27.6… nice… rich with noche buena… can he ride the lightning?… nope- 26.5… mahoganey, with her “hey girl” poem… 27.0… she knows what shes doing up there… cirelli, drops to a 26.5… judges are being tight but its only the first round

rog- how the ghetto… 27.3… real tight… mahoganey “nigerian memories”… 26.4… damn, the judges are sticking to their guns… cirelli “every day in new york schools”… 27.3… that sounds about right… rich- letter from a refugee… he nails it even with paper in hand… 26.6…he needs more points… jai- praise to junga, the river… 27.0… jai is rising up

at this point- rog (54.9), cirelli (53.8) mahoganey (53.4) rich (53.1) jai (52.4)… its looking like a dog fight between rich and mahoganey and jai is out of it

rog- south africa poem… off page!… 27.3… judges still consistent… cirelli- old school flavor… he should break it open here… 27.5… guess not… mahoganey- love me like yo 1st… 26.2… she is trailing off… her performance are still strong but the judges aint havin it… rich- cancion para el griot… i love this poem… this can get rich in front… 26.5… shit!.. its enough to tie mahoganey… jai- the Pi poem…

and then this is where it all goes out the window and why you always gotta show up to win. jai works with numbers for a living and we had a fun time looking over the arc of the scores for the first semi final. i asked him if he was taking into account what happens with score creep and the law of diminishing returns. he nodded in that nod that says he could probably explain all this shit in five ways to me if he had the chance. at the last acentos, he also hit the open mic and i asked him “practicing?” he said, “yep” cool! its great to see the “olympics of performance poetry” being treated as such. out of everybody at 13, jai seems like one of the least likely candidates for slam which of course, makes him PERFECT for slam. he has been working on his performance all season long and kept knocking at it bit by bit. improving here and there with only the clock being his biggest foe and thus far in this slam everybody has been tight (mahoganey stopped at 3:0 even for one piece and cirelli cut it close with a 3:08 but otherwise its been cool). i always liked the Pi poem since i am a math freak and love how jai mixes it all together to turn the oldest complex number into a bedroom war chant. and then he went and lost his fool mind letting the whole world know that he wrote that in a mind space that not a lot of people know about. where he turns into “smooth jai” (inside joke) and can make fun at others and himself with the best of them. he turned the slam into his own big inside joke and what happens…

28.0… high score so far… and totally blows the doors off the place…

here ya go… last round coming up… rog (82.2) cirelli (81.3) jai (80.4) rich (79.6) mahoganey (79.6)… and, for real, anything can happen now…

sorbet poet time… i go up.. bust out “America: My First Love Poem” ver 2.0… half the place is still buzzing about jai’s performance… then some are talking to the slammers… or talking about the slam… the slammers are gearing up for the last round… i was surprised i was able to get as much attention as i did… half me friends said they didnt here it… thats OK… i was able to capture the crowd that was looking at the stage… ray says you know you got it when you leave them thinking you still have more to say… nice… i like how it felt up there… must work more on this baby… time to finish the slam…

rog- blue sex prodigy… hmm, interesting choice… last round poems cant be used in finals… so i guess thats a good sacrifice… 27.3… wow, talk about consistent… cirelli- talking about stars like joan rivers… 26.7… he had a chance to take the lead but these judges took the job serious tonight… jai- great uncle… damn, this is one of my favorites… cant take no chances, though… 27.2… rich- poem not for valentines day… make no mistake… i’ve pulling for rich the whole night… this poem has what it takes to get him in… “an 8.8, an 8.9…” nope, i know enough to know that he needed at least nines across the board… mahoganey- contradictions… she is a vet and has what it takes to get 30s… except from these judges… 26.7… they had an idea of the perfect poem in mind… and nobody had it tonight… jai pulls one 10 for the night and thats about it

when the dust settles- rich (106.6) mahoganey (106.9) and going to finals rog (109.5) cirelli (108.0) and jai!!! (107.6)

it was still mad tight and anything coulda happened at the end but the night (though rog and cirelli were on point throughout) belonged to jai. he may not have won but he took his poems to a new level and all of us with him. and thats why, i still love the slam cuz just like baseball you can strike out 7 out of ten and you can get singles 80% of the time but when you see the raging fastball meet the perfect swing and the ball pops off the bat and i know, the batter knows, the pitcher knows, and the whole damn stadium knows that that ball aint comin back. its gone and it dont belong to nobody no more.

eat at res… bullshit with scot… have some fun.. eat a burger.. get home.. crawl to bed.. damn, im done

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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